A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE AQUARIUM HOBBY
Fish keeping is a hobby that many worldwide enjoy. This is a hobby that dates back to ancient times and has seen many changes over the years including the introduction of Nano reefs and aquascaping. As aquarium keeping progresses and we move along to the next big thing, would you ever stop to wonder how it all got started in the first place? Fishkeeping is nothing new and dates back centuries, though fish were not always kept with the purpose of being a pretty display in one’s Livingroom.
Example of an 1850′s aquarium
The Roman Empire was one of the first to utilize fishkeeping as a way to sustain life. Large ponds called piscinas were constructed out of cement and the upper rims were lined with different stones such as opal, tile, or firebrick. There was no particular style or size that these ponds were built too. Picinas were made for many different reasons such as swimming and holding fish. The fish within the picinas were used as a staple diet for monastic communities. Fish were not only kept outdoors but indoors as well. The first fish harbored indoors was the Sea Barbell. The Romans stored these fish in small tanks made of marble and kept them under guest beds. Glass panes were then introduced in 50 AD, allowing for one side of the tank to be replaced with glass.
The Grotto of Tiberius located in Sperlonga, Italy is a very popular and historical piscina
The Chinese began fishkeeping solely for ornamental reasons, beginning with the Carp. The carp family includes goldfish and Koi. Selective breeding to bring out desired traits such as color and shape did not begin until the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). People were forbidden from eating these fish. In the year 1369 the Hongwu Emperor established a porcelain company that produced large tubs. These tubs were used to hold fish. As the years went on and the hobby charged forth, these tubs evolved to the shape of the modern fish bowl.
At The Great Exhibition in 1851, ornate aquariums made out of cast-iron were featured. This led to a boom in popularity for the fishkeeping hobby within the United Kingdom. England was officially introduced to the great wonders of fish in 1853 when Philip Henry Grosse stocked the first public aquarium located at the London zoo. Much advancement was made in the hobby during the 1850s the following its boom in popularity. New tank designs were created along with new methods for maintaining water quality.
The hobby did not pick up in popularity in other countries until the 1870s. In the year 1876 the “New York Aquarium journal” was published. It is considered to be the world’s first aquarium magazine. The first aquarium society in New York City was founded in 1893. This society quickly gained many followers.
During the twentieth century, our hobby made serious progress which lead to what it has become today. 1908 was the year that the first water driven air pump was created. Following the First World War, electricity was made available to homes. This allowed for the usage of heaters, aeration, filtration and artificial lights.
PEPPERING ON DISCUS: CAUSES AND PREVENTION
Peppering is best described as black speckles that appear on the body and face of a Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus). This may begin as light dusting of black flecks on the body. These flecks may become more prominent over time and spread. Peppering is caused by a variety of reasons that include the fish’s genetic makeup and stress level. It is noteworthy to mention that the amount of peppering a discus will have as an adult can be unpredictable as it develops with age.
These Pigeon Blood Discus do not have any peppering
Before you can “fix” a peppered Discus, you must first understand how it came to be and if it is even something you can fix. There is a theory that peppering is caused by a dark background. This would include the colors black, navy blue, and dark grey. While it is true that a darker environment does tend to bring out more peppering, it is not what sole cause of it. Peppering is caused by the genetics of the fish. The peppered trait appears only in Pigeon Blood Discus and Discus that are Pigeon Blood based. The peppering are spots of pigment caused by a mutated gene found in the Pigeon Blood Discus. When the fish gets stressed you may see peppering appear in place of the common stress bars found in other varieties of Discus such as the Cobalt. If the fish is provided with a proper and clean environment then peppering may not show or may decrease in visibility. Clean Pigeon Bloods have been bread to have little to no peppering.
This Discus is showing severe peppering
Another cause of peppering in the Discus is bad upbringing. If the fish were not properly cared for while young then peppering is more likely to occur. This would include bad water quality and an unbalanced diet. Reputable breeders will cull fish with heavy peppering to keep the lines as clean as possible. Sometimes these fish are kept and sold cheaply to unexperienced hobbyist under a name concocted to make the fish sound desirable.
This Discus is showing minimal peppering
Many who do not understand what peppering is associate it immediately with disease and jump to treating with medications. Peppering is NOT a sign of disease and cannot be fixed with medication. The best way to reduce peppering in discus is to keep them in their optimal environment. This includes regular water changes; scheduled filter cleanings and proper diet. Do not keep Discus with aggressive tank mates that will bully the Discus and outcompete them when feeding. If you are new to Discus I would strongly advise against tank mates and keeping your Discus in a species only tank.
A Discus that does show peppering will always show a little but the abundance of black specs can be greatly reduced by following the given advice above. Although peppering is very undesirable, especially if you intend to breed, many hobbyists don’t mind or even like the look of a peppered fish. Remember that it is not an indication that the fish is sick, but rather a genetic trait and possibly an indication that something in the environment could use some adjustment.
Sexing Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus) can be challenging for both the novice and experienced keepers. Techniques that can be used to determine sex are not foolproof. This is because a Discus can display both male and female feature rendering the determination of the sex difficult. Sexing them is by no means impossible; it’s just not that easy. The first thing to consider while attempting sexing a Discus is size. It is best to determine the gender of a Discus at approximately 5.5 inches (14 cm) though it is possible to sex at a smaller size. The reason you want a larger fish is because all juvenile Discus (4 inches and under) look the same.
Male Discus on the left, female on the right
There are many body features of the Discus which you can use to determine the sex. Fin shape is one way to determine the gender. The male Discus has a long, sharply pointed dorsal fin while the females have shorter, rounded dorsal fin. The male Discus tends to be larger in body size and sports larger lips which he uses to defend his female. The forehead of the male has a more rounded shape than the female. This gives off a more masculine appearance. Another method would be to observe the genitalia. The female’s papilla is rounded and the males are pointed. Unfortunately this can only be observed with spawning behavior.
Other methods for sexing are observing the color and behavior of the fish in question. The females tend to be the more colorful ones. The male Discus may appear duller in contrast to the female, although they are both still incredibly beautiful. Males do tend to top the females in patterning as they may have a more elaborate and intricate pattern when compared to the female. Different behavior may also be observed. The male Discus has a tendency to be more aggressive than the female. This is in order for him to defend his female; he may be observed nipping other males and shielding her from onlookers both in and out of the tank.
These Discus are participating in spawning behavior
The most important thing to keep in mind while determining the sex of Discus is that all the behaviors and characteristics observed do not guarantee the fish is one sex or the other. Many times a female Discus will display male characteristics and behavioral patterns. The same can be said for the males. Even spawning behavior cannot guarantee male and female pair as females have been observed participating in spawning behaviors with each other. The best way to truly know the sex of your fish is to have a successful spawn between a true pair. If your end goal is to breed discus you may be able to find a true pair on the market, though bear in mind that these true pairs can fetch a fairly high price. The other option is to buy 6 or more juvenile Discus (the more Discus fish you have, the better your chances) and allow them to pair off on their own as they grow and mature. Trying to force a potential male and female to breed rarely works so it best to allow them to choose their own mate.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR FRESHWATER LIVEBEARER COMMUNITIES
Mollies, platys and guppies are hardy favorites for freshwater communities because of their colorful, active presence. They are excellent fish for beginners! Many hobbyists have their first experience with fry (baby fish) with these livebearers, which carry their young until birth instead of scattering eggs on rocks or leaves. When a female is getting ready to give birth her belly will get larger and there is often a growing dark spot near her vent where fry eyes can be seen!
Providing many hiding spots for the newborns will help them avoid the voracious appetites of the adults, who may consume the young. To give them the best chance from the beginning, place the female in a separate nursery tank or in an isolated breeder box hanging from the side of the community tank. Some breeder boxes will even separate the fry from their mother because of a slatted grate through which they can swim. Live plants create a safe haven for them to explore once back in the community. Water sprite, water wisteria, duckweed, and java moss are all excellent choices.
Filters pose another threat to the tiny young fish. A simple sponge filter, or a sponge cover on a waterfall filter’s intake, will aid in keeping them from being caught in the filter. Salt is another consideration with a community tank; yes, salt can improve function of gills and slime coat, but in higher concentrations can be detrimental to plant growth or some community species. Adding 1 tablespoon of freshwater aquarium rock salt (not the mixes for marine tanks) to each 5 gallons keeps the concentration at a beneficial level. Because salt can only be removed with water changes, the addition of salt should be calculated for the new water only. Some people prefer to use salt all the time, while others only use it when fish are about to give birth, or as a preventative for bloat, bacterial, or parasitic problems. Consult our specialists on what would work best for your tank
After you get fry, raising them is the next task! Fry need tiny pieces of food like the powder-like New Life Spectrum Grow Fry Starter or Hikari First Bites. Live microworms are a wonderful, protein-packed addition to their diet that can be purchased by the cup from our store.
While you’re here, grab a few new livebearers for your tank!
THE EFFECTS OF EXOTIC FISH AND ANIMALS ON OREGON’S ECOSYSTEM
Introduced species cause chaos, killing off wild populations, destroying ecosystems and raiding our pocket books. It is estimated that $130 billion a year is spent in an attempt to control and relieve the damage caused by invasive species. These species are harmful for many reasons. One reason is the exposure to new diseases that our native wildlife has never been exposed to and therefore has no immunity too. The most common way an exotic animal gets introduced into a native habitat is uneducated pet owners. Sometimes a pet owner may acquire an animal that they have not done proper research on. Once that animal grows too large, gets to expense, or lives to long, the pet owner may make the poor decision to release it believing it would be happier in nature. Animals acquired by inexperienced and new pet owners typically are very hardy and adaptable to most environmental conditions; these animals become prime candidates for becoming invasive species.
Chinese Mystery Snail
In the past 100 years invasive species have contributed to 68% of fish extinctions. The Asian carp (Cyprinus Carpio) , also known as the Silver or Bighead carp are an invasive species from China that can reach well over 50 lbs. at adult size. It directly competes with native fish for food. This species eats phytoplankton, which in turn increases algae growth. This has detrimental effects on our river systems. Another invasive species known as the Chinese mystery snail (Cipangopaludina Chinensis) competes with native snails for both food and habitat. These snails also harbor parasites and diseases that can infect humans. The shells of the snails have been known to obstruct intake pipes which can restrict water flow.
American Bull Frog
Many amphibian species have also been introduced into Oregon’s ecosystem. One of the most commonly found species is the American Bull frog (Lithobates Catesbeianus). This species is highly adaptable to most ecosystems. The Bullfrog is particularly harmful for a multitude of reasons. It can reach up to 8 inches in length and feeds on many native species of bird, snake, frog, fish, insects, and mice. They have also been known to enter ponds and consume young koi and goldfish. This frog is a known carrier of the Chytrid fungus or BD (Bactrachochytrium dendrobatidis), which is causing mass extinction of frog species around the world. There are two theories on how BD directly kills amphibians. The first theory is that the fungus releases toxic enzymes that kill the frogs. The second theory is that the fungus causes a loss of electrolytes which in turn negatively effects osmoregulation and possibly oxygen uptake which is the primary function of the frog’s skin.
A problematic species of reptile in Oregon waters is the Red-eared Slider turtle (Trachemys Scripta elegans). The Red-eared Slider can be found in lakes and slow moving streams. The immediate danger to native wildlife is that this turtle competes directly with them for food and habitat. The Red-eared Slider has also been known to transmit parasites to native species.
The easiest way to help save our native species and their environment is to practice responsible pet ownership. If you can no longer provide care for an animal there are many resources out there for you to utilize as releasing an animal into the wild is never an option. There are plenty of internet options such as specialized Facebook groups or craigslist where you can find a willing person to adopt your pet. Be sure to check with your local pet store as they may be willing to let you donate the animal. If you wish to donate always call first to be sure they have the space, time and equipment to care for the animal. The best option is doing research prior to acquiring an animal. Be sure to know how big the animal gets, size of enclosure, food and lifespan before you bring home a new friend.
One of the most popular freshwater fish in the hobby is Betta splenden, or the betta fish. When people think of bettas they think of the big colorful fins of most males, most don’t even realize how different males and females really are. In the past, females have had drab coloring and therefore have always been a side note to most looking for their first fish. In recent years, betta breeders have been hard at work breeding female bettas for colors as fantastic as their male counterparts.
So, how can you keep your own female betta? These fish can be kept alone as is recommended for the males, but they also can be kept in what is known as a “sorority”. To create your own betta sorority, a tank of at least ten gallons is required, 20-30 gallons is preferred. Give your females plenty of places to hide and establish territory such as live plants and driftwood. A sorority consists of at least four females but no more than ten females in an average size tank. Any more or less could lead to intense bullying.
When first put in the tank you will see the females establish their own hierarchy. Keep an eye out during this period for any fish getting bullied or bullying the others particularly hard. If you do see this, separate this fish for ten minutes and try reintroducing. If that doesn’t help you can separate for a longer period and try again. Like all fish, every personality is different and some females are just naturally more aggressive and not suited for a sorority. This can be avoided by aiming for younger and smaller bettas that are not set in their ways quite yet, introducing all your females at once, and/or rearranging tank décor before introducing new fish.
**Reminder: Male and females shouldn’t be kept together. Males should be kept one to a tank.
Betta sororities are a fun and different way to experience the betta fish. Come in and ask us about setting your own up today! (-:
BLOATING AND DIFFERENT CAUSES
Bloating looks like abdominal swelling and having a hard time swimming properly. Such as swimming on their sides or not being able to keep them upright and floating to the surface of the tank. There are several different reasons as to why your fish is bloated. It is usually a symptom of another problem in the fish. Some of those are bacterial infections, egg-binding and constipation. Not all fish bloating is dangerous as fish normally become more round when they’re carrying eggs. Dropsy (pine-coning of the scales) and hemorrhagic septicemia are a couple symptoms of bacterial infections that can appear with bloat.
To prevent bacterial infections do weekly water changes and make sure to test your water. Treat with antibiotics if symptoms last longer than a week. Egg-binding is caused when the female fish’s eggs are stuck. Treatments for this can be rock salt in the tank water, an Epsom salt dip, and/or time with clean water conditions. Rock salt is an immune booster and thickens their slime coat, helping them fight off disease.
Epsom salt is purely magnesium and works as a laxative. To use, remove one gallon of tank water into a separate container and add ¼ teaspoon of the Epsom salt. Place fish in dip for one hour. Then return back to tank. Sometime it takes a few baths to relieve the bloating. If Epsom salt dips do not work for over a week, you may need to change to an antibacterial medication.
Constipation can be caused from either over feeding your fish or improper diet. Not all food containers give you proper feeding instructions! We generally recommend feeding your fish every other day, and only what they can eat in under a minute. Not all fish share the same diet requirements, so be sure to find out what they need specifically before taking them home.
Feeding peas is another remedy for constipation. Peas are high in fiber and help their digestive system. To feed, heat up one or two peas until warm and squeeze the pea out from its outer shell. Make sure to only give it to your fish in the same size proportions as their regular food
If you think your fish is egg-bound, speak to one of our specialists.
2017 High School Intern
GARLIC FOR AQUARIUM USE
Picky eaters in your tank? Try spicing up their meal with a little garlic, whose oil enhances flavor and also stimulates the immune system! The discus fish in our store (a notoriously picky species!) gobble up all types of offered food when garlic is involved. Freshwater, saltwater, and reef tanks can all benefit from this food.
Allicin is the compound in the food that can be extracted and concentrated into supplemental products like Seachem’s Garlic Guard, making dosage and use a breeze. Garlic cloves from your kitchen can be used, though they won’t contain the vitamin C that pre-made products add. To prepare your own, either crush and mince a peeled clove with the side of a knife or mortar and pestle, or puree a clove in a blender with a little bit of aquarium water. When fish food (especially pelleted or frozen diets) sits in your preferred garlic additive for a few minutes it will absorb the oils, adding little effort to the normal feeding routine. New Life Spectrum’s flaked food and Thera+A pellets also have garlic in them- no soaking required.
Many hobbyists swear that garlic is effective against existing parasites and disease, though our team agrees that the immune system being boosted protects the fish preemptively. However you prepare it, bon appétit!
CHLORINE & HOW IT AFFECTS AQUATIC LIFE
Chlorine is widely used to treat tap water to reduce bacterial growth and make it safe for human usage. Although it is known to be safe for our use, it is not safe for the aquatic pets we care for in our homes. Millions of people all around the world keep water dwelling pets that cannot tolerate chlorine. A chemical additive that removes chlorine from the water should always be utilized when adding tap water to an aquarium. All fish tanks should also be dechlorinated.
If chlorine is not removed it can have harmful effects. It can burn away the gill filaments of fish inhibiting the fish’s ability to receive oxygen. This can lead to suffocation. The chlorine can also affect the kidneys, therefore reducing the fish’s ability to remove toxins from the bloodstream. The fish can then die of blood poisoning and or kidney failure.
The effects of using underchlorinated water are not immediate. The short term effect is decreased gill function. Prolonged exposure will cause kidney failure. Another notable effect of chlorine in the aquarium is the possibility of killing of the beneficial bacteria that resides mainly in your filter and substrate. This bacteria consumes waste created by your fish, decaying food, and decaying plant matter. Without this bacteria you may experience a “crash” where your fish become poisoned and you will need to perform extra tank maintenance to correct the issue.
The best way to prevent the harmful effects of chlorine is to use a water conditioner such as Seachems Prime or Stress coat by API. A water conditioner removes chlorine on contact and neutralizes heavy metals. They also aid in repairing the slime coat of your fish. Even if you receive your water from a source that does not utilize chlorine, such as a well, you still should use a water conditioner as these sources will still contain heavy metals. Ponds should also be dechlorinated when adding freshwater from the tap. Other pets such as reptiles and amphibians should be provided with dechlorinated water. Water dishes and swimming areas should be filled with dechlorinated water. There are many water conditioners on the market such as ReptoSafe by Tetra and REPTISAFE by Zoo Med that are made especially for dechlorinating your reptile or amphibians water.
HOW TO ENHANCE DISCUS COLORATION
Discus are one of the most stunning fish in the aquarium hobby. The rounded body shape and vivid colors can draw attention from across the room. Though they are already the perfect specimen for a hobbyist looking for a more challenging and colorful fish, the colors of the discus can be greatly enhanced by diet, as well as many other fish commonly kept in aquaria. Most of a fishes coloration stems from its genetics, but by adding particular foods containing certain carotenoids (plant pigments that produce orange, red and yellow coloration) the colors of your discus will become more breathtaking than ever before.
Before we begin, here are the basics of how fish coloration works. Fish have two skin layers. The first one is the epidermis which is thin (top layer). The second is a thick layer called the dermis. The dermis contains irregularly shaped cells which are called chromatophores. Some chromatophores produce melanin which is responsible for black and brown pigment while the others store carotenoids which are obtained mainly through a fish’s diet. The list below will display the desired color to enhance, the carotenoid, and a food example. Please note that exclusively using only one or a few of these foods listed will lead to an improper and unbalanced diet which is unhealthy. It is recommended to add these foods as a supplement to a preexisting diet. Do not feed exclusively. Not all foods containing certain carotenoids are listed.
Food: shrimp, krill, P.E calanus
Carotenoid: zeaxanthin, lutein
Food: add yellow bell peppers to a homemade fish food. Egg yolk also enhances yellow and is used to bind many fish foods
Note: yellow coloration is the hardest to achieve and maintain as most foods contain carotenoids for red pigment which in some cases may turn a yellow fish orange.
Carotenoid: phycocyanin (produced by blue-green algae)
The ever-wiggly Kuhli loach (Pangio Kuhlii) is a small, peaceful addition for just about any freshwater setup. Kuhlis originate from sandy bottomed clean rivers and use their facial barbels to scavenge leftover food off the ground.
Being cautious creatures, they can bury themselves in substrate or hide under decor, going undetected for periods of time. However, we see many that come out to explore – especially around feeding time! Growing to a length of 4 inches, adding to a small group is manageable when trying to increase their confidence. They are social and like company even though they don’t school.
The variety pictured has the “normal” coloration, and all-black Kuhlis are available as well!
RED CHERRY SHRIMP (NEOCARIDINA HETEROPODA SP.)
Red Cherry Shrimp or RCS are very small algae eaters and scavengers, reaching only an inch or so in length. In an aquarium they are constantly picking through plants or the substrate looking for food to eat. These shrimp are a bright red color that has been selectively bred out of the wild type shrimp. There are other colors as well but Red is the most common in the trade.
For Cherry Shrimp to do well, a planted aquarium with a large amount of moss and hiding places would be best. Other fish tend to munch on shrimps, especially young ones who are very tiny, so a shrimp only tank will allow them to behave naturally and breed. Keeping them this way in a 10 gallon or larger will encourage breeding behavior and you may end up with a large shrimp colony!
Red Cherry Shrimp should be kept in an aquarium of at least 10 gallons. The temperature should be in the mid to high 70’s. A low flow rate biological filter would be best for these shrimp as they are very small and would get pushed around by the current. Come take your first step into keeping ornamental shrimp with one of our new Shrimp Tank kits from Dennerle or build your own shrimp aquarium with our large selection of nano tanks.
THE WONDERFUL GLASS CATFISH
The Glass Catfish is a virtually transparent fish. Although not usually considered suitable for beginners this fish can be cared for by those with basic fishkeeping skills. This species makes a wonderful display in large numbers; and thus, should be kept in at least groups of six in a non-aggressive community tank. This species is timid initially, but given some time it will begin to get bolder. They are comforted by live plants and prefer dim lighting or floating/overhanging plants to diffuse bright lights. A school of them will show their best in fast moving water like ones made from a power head. This is a meat eating species that will eventually become a voracious eater, but may need to be weaned onto flake/pellet foods from live or frozen food. So if you are looking to add something a little different to your community tank, look no further than the glass catfish.
The zebra pleco (Hypancistrus Zebra) is a small suckermouth catfish that at adult size reaches approximately 3- 4 inches. The Zebra pleco may also be known by the name Imperial pleco or the L numbers L-046 and L-098. This species was originally discovered in 1989. Later, in 1991, Isbrucker Nijssen scientifically described the plecostomus giving it the name Hypancistrus Zebra. In nature the Zebra pleco inhabits the river Rio Xingu in Brazil. The natural environment of the zebra pleco consists of myriad stones and pebbles combined with a sandy substrate. In captivity, it is recommended to replicate the Zebra plecos natural environment as closely as possible. The PH should remain steady at 6.0-7.5. The temperature should be maintained at 79-86 degrees F (26-30 Degrees C). A tank with the capacity of at least 20 gallons should be provided for just one Zebra pleco. If you wish to keep more than one a tank capacity of 40 gallons or larger should be used to provide enough space for each pleco to have its own territory. Decorating the tank for your pleco is simple. Provide plenty of rocky caves and crevices that will provide shelter as would be in nature. Sand is the preferred substrate for Zebra plecos. Terracotta pots and PVC pipes may be used in place of rocks and a bare bottom tank containing no substrate would also be suitable for the Zebra pleco. It is recommended for most species of pleco to provide a source of wood in the aquarium. Plecos chew on wood to aid in the digestion of their food. Although it has not been proven that the Zebra pleco implements wood in this way it is still advised to use wood as décor in the aquarium.
The diet of the Zebra is not typical to what most people assume. If you are looking for a “sucker fish” to eat away the algae in your aquarium this is not the right pleco for you. The Zebra pleco should be considered the main bottom feeder of your aquarium as its diet consists of not only algae but meaty foods as well. Blood worms and shrimp are a favorite of the Zebra pleco. Be sure to provide a highly nutritious diet for your pleco to maintain optimum health. Tanks mates for a Zebra pleco should be able to handle to higher temperatures and not inhabit the same space as the pleco. Most schooling fish will make great tank mates. A large tank with Discus may be an ideal setup for the Zebra pleco as the water quality and temperature mixed with the types of food Discus eat would all be suitable. If the proper care is provided you may see this species live up to 10 years. The Zebra pleco is an amazing addition to a beautiful aquarium and will pride you with plenty of enjoyment and wonder for years to come.
SNAILS: FRIENDS OR FOES?!
Snails are one of the most frequently discussed topics of conversation among aquarium hobbyists. Some speak about them with anger, some with a tremor of fear, and some (like me) with a doting “AWWW cute!” Yes, some types can be pesky, but I’ll give you the shakedown on the most common kinds you’ll experience, for better or worse. If you have further questions or anecdotes after this write-up, please stop by to see us and we’ll chat!
Alright, let’s get down to business.
“Problem” or “pest” species tend to be rams horn snails, bladder snails (sometimes called ‘pond snails’), and trumpet snails. These kinds are hermaphroditic, reproducing by themselves like wildfire, having egg masses that can be difficult to see and remove. While having a small population can be beneficial for food cleanup, if they become too numerous they can clog filters and nibble on plants. Some people choose to keep trumpet snails on purpose for their sand cleaning skills; they don’t reproduce as quickly as the other two mentioned, which is nice. I personally keep a small amount of trumpets in one tank, as well as a breeding colony of bladder snails in my smallest project tank so that my tiny freshwater puffer fish can have special treats now and again. Ridding your tanks of problem snails can indeed be a headache. To reduce the chance of a snail explosion, make sure there isn’t leftover food on the substrate after feeding time, and siphon any that accumulates on a regular basis. If you already have more snails than you know what to do with, you can diligently remove them by hand. I will mention that there are chemical products that will kill the snails, though I would much more recommend setting traps; chemical snail-icides will harm “good” invertebrates and fish that are sensitive to copper sulfate, one of the most common toxins. A slice of cucumber will attract snails (a nice snack for fish too!), and I occasionally use small cups with an entrance hole, baited with food. The snails will have difficulty leaving the cups, so you can clear them out. My favorite method is to employ snail- and snail egg-eaters. Adding types of catfish, loaches, puffers, and assassin snails can quickly manage the problem. Aqua Serene staff can help you pick the right workers for the job and for your tank setup! So, how about the snails we sell as pets? These cute algae-eating machines won’t take over your tank, we promise! These kinds need a male and female to reproduce. Female nerite snails can lay small, single, white eggs on the surface of glass, wood, decorations, and plants. I have come to endear them, but some people can’t stand the look. Any fertilized eggs will not hatch unless you keep the water at a brackish salinity, though! Mystery snails are larger, more curious snails. The females can lay pink-ish egg masses just above the water line, which will hatch in 2-3 weeks if fertilized. These two types of snails come in a variety of colors and patterns, which makes them extra fun to collect! Remember to supplement their diet with algae wafers if they have already munched down the stuff in the tank. Because they need calcium for strong shells, you can also supplement their diet without being worried about changing the water parameters with dissolved calcium. If you’re feeling crafty, try out this DIY recipe from My Aquarium Club for “Snail Jello” that snails can share with their tank mates: Ingredients: 1 4oz jar baby food (squash and green bean flavors have highest calcium content) 1 ½ packets of plain unflavored gelatin 10-12 tums crushed into powder (plain or flavored ok) Crushed fish food flakes and/or algae wafers Preparation: Crush tums, flake food, wafers. Gently heat baby food either in microwave (~1min) or stove top. Mix in the gelatin, stir well. Add crushed powders and stir well. Pour small amounts into ice cube tray and freeze (smaller amounts of cut finished cubes for smaller groups of snails). Store finished cubes in fridge or freezer, feeding appropriately sized cubes daily or every other day. Bon appétit!
June 20th, 2016
A home Discus (Symphysodon) aquarium should replicate the Discuses natural environment as closely as possible. These fish come from the soft, acidic waters throughout the Amazon basin located in Peru, Columbia, and Brazil. These fish exhibit a behavior known as schooling which is uncommon with many cichlids. In the wild, a large school of wild Discus will dwell beneath the roots of trees in areas with plenty of shade and cover. By replicating this environment in the home aquarium, you can bring this shy fish out into the open to enjoy.
The minimum tank size for Discus is 55 gallons. In a tank this size you can comfortably house a properly sized school of six fish. Because the Discus are so shy and yet social with their own species it is not advised to keep schools less than six as the fish will stress easily and will single out individuals and bully them to death. Discuses reach a maximum size of at least six inches and can live for 10 years, so be prepared for long term care.
Water parameters should be closely monitored at all times. One should attempt to keep nitrates as low as possible with frequent water changes. This is especially important when Discus are young to avoid stunting (stunting is a condition caused by bad water quality and being crammed in small spaces resulting in a shortened life span, deformity and poor health). 25%- 40% of the water should be changed daily or perform larger water changes 2-3 times per week. It is best to use half RO water and half dechlorinated tap water when refilling your tank as this provides nutrients without adding to many or altering the pH. RO water can be acquired through a RO/DI system at home or from your local fish store. Because Discus come from warm waters, the heater should be set between 80-88. PH should also be closely monitored and kept steady at 6.0- 6.5.
Discus nutrition is very important to keeping a healthy fish. It is best to feed foods high in protein such as beef heart and blood worms (live or frozen is fine) and high quality pellet foods. Baby Discus should be fed small amounts 10-12 times per day. Juveniles should be fed 5 times per day and adults can be fed 2-3 times per day. Be sure to siphon out uneaten food to keep the water clean.
When beginning, it may be tempting to keep other fish with your Discus. This is not advised unless you already have experience working with Discus. Overstocking can lead to water quality issues which can stress and kill a Discus. Some fish may be too fast and aggressive causing the Discus to hide and not receive enough to eat. Other fish such as Apitogrammas may have a shortened life span due to the high temperatures the Discus requires. Once you have mastered Discus care you can consider adding Rams cichlids or Angelfish to your aquarium.
April 24th, 2016
BETTAS: BOWLS VS. TANKS
It’s a common misconception of new betta owners that a betta can live out its life comfortably in a bowl. Although it is true that bettas can survive in bowls, they will not thrive in them. In reality there are many factors that contribute to the health and life span of a betta. Wild bettas originate from Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. These wild bettas choose a territory that typically spans three feet and contains plenty of lush vegetation. The statement regarding bettas happily living in puddles within the wild is false. Their natural habitat is made up of streams, marshes and occasionally drainage ditches. The only time a betta must survive in a “puddle” is during the dry season when streams and marshes dry out. The following paragraphs contain tips on how to create a proper setup for your betta to thrive in captivity.
HEAT: Bettas are a tropical fish meaning they require warm water to survive. A healthy temperature range to keep your betta’s tank is 75-85F. To maintain this temperature gradient you must provide a heater. Do take into consideration that bowls are too small to use a heater, therefore a larger tank is required. If a betta is left in a bowl without proper heat, it may become cold. Keep in mind they are cold blooded and require an outside source to create body heat. You will know your betta is cold when he becomes inactive, lying at the bottom without moving for hours. Being cold can weaken your betta’s immune system leading to disease.
FILTERS: When it comes to tanks vs. bowls, a larger system containing at least five gallons or more is a lot more stable than a bowl could ever be. Good water quality is key to keeping a healthy, happy betta fish long term. Unlike bowls, there are many filtration systems designed specifically for larger aquariums. These filters are vital to your fish because they remove waste from the water column and create a safe environment for good bacteria to thrive. This good bacteria is what eats the toxic ammonia created by fish poop and decaying food. When the bacteria eat the ammonia it coverts it into nitrite and then the less deadly nitrate. Nitrate is then removed by your 25% weekly water changes. Bowls are not capalbe of using a filter and therefore require 100% weekly water changes to get rid of toxic ammonia and waste that can quickly poison your betta. Ammonia levels in bowls can very quickly rise to very toxic levels due to the small volume of water along with nowhere for good bacteria to grow. It is common for bettas exposed to bad water quality to come down with illnesses such as Fin Rot and Swim Bladder. These illnesses can easily be avoided with proper filtration.
Not only can a proper set up provide your betta with a heater, filter and enough swimming space for himself; but it can also provide an opportunity for tank mates such as neon Tetras and African Dwarf Frogs. One more thing to consider is the life span of a betta. A betta that lives in a bowl typically has a considerably shorter lifespan than one in a tank, usually consisting of only 2-3 years, while bettas that are given a larger system have an average lifespan of 6-10 years!
Overall, a tank consisting of a heater and filter can make quite the difference!
March 4th, 2016
CELESTIAL PEARL DANIO or “CELESTICHTHYS MAGARITATUS”
Relatively new to the hobby, the Celestial Pearl Danio (CPD) was first found in 2006. They were discovered in small spring fed pools in Burma. These pools are located between 1/2 and 1 mile high in elevation and thus have cooler water than most tropical fish are used to. The temperature is usually in the low 70s with a slightly higher pH and low hardness. Many aquatic plants grow in these pools and these little fish appreciate lots of vegetation to swim and hide in.
This fish is quite beautiful for only reaching 3/4 of an inch at adult size, therefor smaller tanks with similar sized tank mates are recommended. They are relatively shy fish, unless provided a large amount of hiding places. A well planted 10-20 gallon tank would be sufficient for a group of them. The male of this species like to spar and swim in circles around each other. Make sure you provide enough hiding places if you are going to have more than one male in the tank.
CPDs are omnivores and take most prepared food very well. A staple diet of a nice tropical flake food or small pellet, as well as live foods, such as baby brine shrimp or microworms would be perfect.
If you are looking for a little fish that is beautiful with tons of personality, the Celestial Peal Danio might be for you!
March 4th, 2016
CORALIFE DIGITAL POWER CENTER DAY-NIGHT TIMER
One of the most forgotten aspects of fish keeping is under the cabinet. While it is true that most people don’t go to your home and look under your tank, it still matters. Much like looking under the hood of a car, it may not always be seen but it has to function properly and be easily accessible.
The Coralife power center has two daytime and two nighttime outlets as well as four steady outlets. This makes it easy to have things such as your CO2 and daytime lights turn on and have an automatic switch to nighttime operations, such as air units and nighttime lights, while still keeping heaters, filters, and other constant running necessities operational all day.
Although I haven’t in the picture (left), I do suggest that you mount this or any other power supplies in a vertical position, and as always use a drip loop for safety. Just add a few velcro cord wraps from the local hardware store, perhaps labels and a light, and you are all set!
March 8th, 2016
Neolamprologus pulcher are small cichlids, often called ‘daffodil’ or ‘princess’ cichlids. They have soft, creamy colors that give them a graceful look. These white colors will blend into some browns, yellows, blues, or a combination of thereof as they mature. Daffodils measure up to 5 inches and look very similar to Neolamprologus brichardi (‘fairy’) cichlids.
Being native to Lake Tanganyika, their personalities aren’t as shy as their delicate appearance may lead you to believe! While exploring all parts of the tank, they will not refrain from hanging out in open water.
Dominant males will stake claim to their territory, but a shoal will cooperate when not breeding. Generally they are a peaceful community fish that would do best in a species-only tank of at least 15 gallons, with a 50 gallon tank being ideal for mixing species.
Mimicking water conditions of Lake Tanganyika is fairly easy with a rift lake salt buffer which will harden the water and add essential elements. Stack rocks to make caverns and crevasses and you’ll have some happy daffodils!
January 29th, 2016
When schooling in a community or semi-aggressive tank, cherry barbs add an active cloud of color to the scenery. The males display a crimson (or I suppose, cherry) red color. The females, like in many species, present less of their namesake color, but they do have an overall orange glow and a yellow and black stripe. They are a peaceful fish, but a school should have at least one female per each male to reduce competition. Measuring in at 2″ each and requiring open swimming space, a school of 6 or more would be comfortable in a long 20 gallon tank or larger. They are rather hardy and can tolerate a range of water conditions, while eating a wide array of foods.
Whether you pick the normal or long -finned variety, they are sure to brighten your day!
January 29th, 2016
DWARF ANCHOR CATFISH
A new in-store favorite among all of us here at Aqua is the Dwarf Anchor Catfish. This small and uniquely shaped catfish has Asian roots, specifically Indian and Thai. They can be found in dimly lit, slow moving, sandy streams throughout these areas. Keep this in mind when trying to decide if they are right for your tank.
Housing a small school of 3+ in a well planted sand tank is preferable. They have sensitive barbells that will rub raw against sharp gravel if they are out competed for resources, so make them your main bottom dweller. These cats, like others, are nocturnal so I recommend feeding right after lights out for a spectacular show, as well as providing ample dark nooks for the day time. Come check them out, before we sell out!
THE PISTOL SHRIMP
Hi folks! Today I wanted to talk to you about the Pistol Shrimp. When I first started working in salt water this little guy made me jump a mile high if he got near my hand, and with good reason. The pistol (or snapping) shrimp, which grow to only 1-2 inches, has a disproportionately large claw that they use to shoot bubble “bullets” at their prey to stun or kill them. Their large claw works like a pistol with a hammer like joint. When they fire off a “bullet” the resulting sound can be in the range of 210 decibels! An actual gunshot averages around 150 decibels. You can probably see why these guys made me jump! It has been shown that a mass colony firing off their “pistols” have caused disruptions to sonar equipment!
The pistol shrimp doesn’t have the greatest eyesight, but they are excellent burrowers. Certain species of this shrimp (and their are hundreds of species) can form a symbiotic relationship with gobys. A goby will hang out near the entrance of the shrimp’s burrow. By keeping one of its long antennae on top of the goby, the pistol shrimp can receive an early warning of predators i it feels the goby dart into the burrow.
Come on down to Aqua Serene to experience the sound (and sight) of our pistol shrimp!
BREEDING LELEUPI CICHLIDS
The other day my Leleupi had babies. For those of you who don’t know, a Leleupi is a type of African cichlid from Lake Tanganyika. These fish live on the rocky bottom in depths ranging from 12 to 120 feet. This is a common cichlid to keep because of their relatively small size (males between four to five inches, and females between three to four inches) and vibrant yellowish orange color.
When keeping this fish, you generally want to keep it in a tank around fifty gallons or bigger due to their attitudes. Since they are a cichlid they can get pretty territorial towards other fish. Especially when breeding. The Leleupi also have special water requirements. In Lake Tanganyika the water temperature can fluctuate quite a bit. It generally ranges in the mid 80’s, so it would be best to keep your tank around 80 to 84 degrees. This will help keep your fish active and healthy. The lake also has a high PH of 8.3 so it would be best to keep the tanks PH at the same level. This can be done using both crushed coral, and Rift Lake Salt. If all the water requirements are right, your fish could end up breeding.
When starting to breed, the male will do courtship dance for the female. This shows the female that he is single and ready to mingle. After the fish have bread, the female will pick a cave with a small opening, and lay her eggs in it. You will see the fish take over half of the aquarium. Both the mother and father cichlids will do their best to make sure that the eggs are protected. The eggs should take about a week to ten days to hatch. After the eggs hatch the fry should be removed from the tank and into a holding tank. In the tank you will want have a heater, and a filter. Moving the fry will help protect them from getting eaten by the other tank mates. Once in the holding tank, the fry should be fed baby brine shrimp on a daily basis. This will ensure that your Leleupi will get their vibrant yellow color that people love.